Archive for January 2007
I grew up in a Christian home, yet I came to think of Christian conversion as a dramatic and decisive experience. I never had such an experience, so I struggled for many years wondering if I was genuinely converted. I repeated the sinner’s prayer often in the hope that this time my sincerity would be sufficient. But our assurance does not rest in our own sincerity.
We know that the Holy Spirit’s work may be a quiet whisper of a breeze that can be seen only by its effects. So our conversion may not be dramatic, but its fruit will be seen over time. And yet, as encouraging as it is to reflect on these evidences of God’s grace in our lives, it is not even here where our assurance primarily rests.
Our assurance rests in Christ, and in his sure promises of salvation. Do not ask yourself, “Am I saved?” This is the wrong question, because it looks inward at the very moment you should be looking upward! Instead ask, “Who is my Savior? Is he able and willing to save? Will he keep his promises?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Here is happy assurance.
John Murray writes of this in his excellent book Redemption Accomplished and Applied (pp. 107ff). You might find his language tedious at points, but you will be rewarded richly for lingering over it. Murray reminds us that our assurance — the warrant for the confidence that we have in our salvation — is not found in ourselves, but in Christ and in his promises.
What warrant does a lost sinner have to commit himself to Christ? How may he know that he will be accepted? How does he know that Christ is able to save? How does he know that this confidence is not misplaced? How does he know that Christ is willing to save him? . . .
From whatever angle we may view [the offer of the gospel], it is full, free, and unrestricted. The appeals of the gospel cover the whole range of divine prerogative and of human interest. God entreats, he invites, he commands, he calls, he presents the overture of mercy and grace, and he does this to all without distinction or discrimination. . . .
When Christ is presented to lost men in the proclamation of the gospel, it is as Savior he is presented, as one who ever continues to be the embodiment of the salvation he has once for all accomplished. It is not the possibility of salvation that is offered to lost men but the Saviour himself and therefore salvation full and perfect. There is no imperfection in the salvation offered and there is no restriction to its overture — it is full, free, and unrestricted. And this is the warrant of faith.
The faith of which we are now speaking is not the belief that we have been saved but [it is] trust in Christ in order that we may be saved. And it is of paramount concern to know that Christ is presented to all without distinction to the end that they may entrust themselves to him for salvation. The gospel offer is not restricted to the elect or even to those for whom Christ died. And the warrant of faith is not the conviction that we are elect or that we are among those for whom, strictly speaking, Christ died but [it is] the fact that Christ, in the glory of his person, in the perfection of his finished work, and in the efficacy of his exalted activity as King and Saviour, is presented to us in the full, free, and unrestricted overture of the gospel. It is not as persons convinced of our election nor as persons convinced that we are the special objects of God’s love that we commit ourselves to him but as lost sinners. We entrust ourselves to him not because we believe we have been saved but as lost sinners in order that we may be saved. It is to us in our lost condition that the warrant of faith is given and the warrant is not restricted or circumscribed in any way. In the warrant of faith the rich mercy of God is proffered to the lost and the promise of grace is certified by the veracity and faithfulness of God. This is the ground upon which a lost sinner may commit himself to Christ in full confidence that he will be saved. And no sinner to whom the gospel comes is excluded from the divine warrant for such confidence.
Presuming on God’s grace, perhaps in some cases to the point of false assurance, is a problem for many of us who have grown up in the church. But we fight our presumption, not with the fear of false assurance, but with true assurance.
Who is your Savior?
Piper writes of ways to make much of Christ in our vocations:
- We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken gospel.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
— John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
HT: Justin Taylor
John Newton was a busy pastor. He wrote of having “seldom one-hour free from interruption. Letters, that must be answered, visitants that must be received, business that must be attended to.” Yet he had this perspective of God’s claim on his time:
When I hear a knock at my study door,
I hear a message from God.
It may be a lesson of instruction;
perhaps a lesson of patience:
but, since it is his message,
it must be interesting.
By our frequent reaction to the circumstances God brings our way, one would believe that we thought ourselves sovereign lords of our schedule. But the reality is that Christ is lord of our time. He gives us regular responsibilities to carry out for his sake. He brings us unexpected situations where we must patiently and humbly set aside our expectations and represent and serve him. And he gives us recreation and sleep as gifts. In fact, every circumstance that he brings about, and every way that he apportions our time, is in some fashion a good gift from him.
Let’s pray that we will better understand his lordship over our time, better see his goodness in that, and thus better trust in him.
Christ is Lord of all. He is great beyond our understanding, and he is greatly to be feared. But he is also good, and he deserving of the deepest love and trust.
Christ is Lord of our salvation.
Christ is Lord of our children.
Christ is Lord of our family life.
Christ is Lord of our vocations.
Christ is Lord over all spheres of life; such as politics, science and art.
Christ is Lord of the convinced atheist.
Christ is Lord of the unbeliever, and his compassion toward unbelievers compels us to love them as well.
Christ is Lord over all his enemies.
The Christian conversion is not an event; conversion is an ongoing way of life that ”sees” Christ’s lordship over all, rejoices in it, continually entrusts oneself to him, and embraces his people. The Christian’s life of faith is not an exercise merely of the mind and will, but of the whole man; it covers all of the human existence, involves every human faculty, and shapes every vocation and relationship. The Christian hope is not a mere future hope that sees this world as nothing; it is a hope that desires this world to enjoy the fruit of Christ’s redemptive lordship as much as heaven. The Christian mission is not merely a mission to save individuals but one to redeem an entire people.
The Christian life is all-encompassing. But by embracing and transforming ”all” of life, the Christian life thus becomes ”ordinary”.
We know how intriguing, even to godless men, is the scientific quest (and the artistic quest!), and how untiring are their labours to discover the secrets of what they call nature (and what they call art!). How incomparably more intriguing and defeatlessly rewarding would have been the quest of sinless man when, at every step of his path and in every detail of progressive understanding, the marvels of the Creator’s wisdom, power, goodness, righteousness, and lovingkindness would have broken in upon his heart and mind, and every new discovery, every additional conquest, would have given cause afresh for the adoration, ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches’ (Psa 104:24). We get a glimpse of the stupendous undertaking and the unspeakable glory of it all. We begin, perhaps, to understand a little of what culture should be. This is the culture that would have engaged and inspired man if he had been confirmed in his integrity. It would have been culture untiringly inspired by the apprehension of the Creator’s glory and by the passion to apprehend and exalt that glory more. That our culture is so little inspired by that ideal is but proof that man has fallen. That any of this culture is found in the earth is proof of redemptive grace.
The earth is full of God’s riches, and one of the callings of the Christian — one of the ways we are to carry out our daily work — is to discover those riches and thereby magnify God.
HT: Daniel Baker
Yesterday was sanctity of life Sunday; providentially, my pastors reached the sixth commandment in their series in Exodus.
Since the Law comprehends under the word murder, all the wrongs whereby men are unjustly injured, that cruelty was especially to be condemned by which those wretched persons are afflicted, whose calamity ought rather to conciliate our compassion. For, if any particle of humanity exists in us, when we meet a blind man we shall be solicitous lest he should stumble or fall, and, if he goes astray, we shall stretch out our hands to him and try to bring him back into the way; we shall also spare the deaf, for to insult them is no less absurd or barbarous than to assail stones with reproaches. It is, therefore, gross brutality to increase the ills of those whom our natural sense impels us to relieve, and who are already troubled more than enough. Let us, then, learn from these words, that the weaker people are, the more secure ought they to be from all oppression or injury, and that, when we attack the defenseless, the crime of cruelty is greatly aggravated, whilst any insult against [those who suffer calamity] is altogether intolerable to God.
— John Calvin, Harmony of the Law, Volume 3
Calvin indicates that, negatively, in the sixth commandment God especially forbids us from bringing harm to the weak. Positively, God requires us to defend the weak.
This is why abortion is such a critical — and unusually political — issue for the church today: it is a matter of obedience and worship to God. With largely private sins our primary responsibility is to preach the gospel — pleading with men to let go of their sin and turn to Christ. But abortion is not a private sin; it represents the murder of the most weak and defenseless persons of all. As such we are bound by duty and love not only to call individuals to repentance and faith, but to earnestly contest this murder by every possible legitimate means.
Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch
“The only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin”:
All the sins of God’s people, past, present and future, are forgiven because of the death of Christ once for all. . . . This justification on the basis of Christ’s death for us is the foundation of sanctification — not the other way around. I put it like this: the only sin we can fight against successfully is a forgiven sin. Without a once-for-all justification through Christ, the only thing that our striving for holiness produces is despair or self-righteousness.
But I did not say that the work of God in justification makes the work of God in sanctification optional. I didn’t say (the Bible doesn’t say) that forgiveness makes holiness optional. It doesn’t make it optional, it makes it possible. What we will see today is that the God who justifies also sanctifies. The faith that justifies also satisfies — it satisfies the human heart and frees it from the deceptive satisfactions of sin. Faith is the expulsive power of a new affection (Thomas Chalmers). That is why justification and the process of sanctification always go together. They both come from the same faith. Perfection comes at the end of life when we die or when Christ returns, but the pursuit of holy living begins with the first mustard seed of faith. That’s the nature of saving faith. It finds satisfaction in Christ and so is weaned away from the satisfactions of sin.
— John Piper, God Sanctifies His People